As in a theatre, the eyes of men,
After a well-graced actor leaves the stage,
Are idly bent on him that enters next.
– William Shakespeare, "Richard II"
February 13, 2012 — Matthew Minnicino, a fourth-year drama and English major in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, and Anne Haney, a fourth-year comparative literature major, used this quote as a starting point to form Idly Bent Theater, a new undergraduate group that produces plays for the Charlottesville community.
The group was founded two months ago and is made up of seven passionate theater students. Minnicino explained that the group wanted a deeper connection with the Charlottesville theater community, rather than be a student organization that only produced drama on Grounds.
In particular, Minnicino and Haney want to prove that theater can be created on a small budget. The group has only spent around $50 for the entire production of its first play, "Persephone," which hits the stage this week. As Minnicino put it, the play is "more about the work, the art than it is about trying to create a business."
Moreover, Minnicino and Haney desired to mimic acting troupes in the real world. "You go off, you want to do a play, you want to do something artistic – you get together people and pull together your resources and create a piece of art," he said.
"Persephone" is an original work that Minnicino wrote in spring 2009 through U.Va.'s Playwriting Society. It was first performed the following spring in Maury Hall. This is the second of his original plays to be performed in Charlottesville this year; in December, he starred in the Drama Department's production of his play, "Troy Is Burning." "Persephone" explores the trials and tribulations of Oskar and Toby, two men who become lost within the manipulative game of life. Minnicino said he wrote the piece to provoke intellectual questioning under the guise of comedy.
Haney, who is directing the play, said it has brought together the multitude of U.Va. and Charlottesville theater organizations, forming "an environment in which everyone is highly invested in all aspects of the creative process." She classified the organization as "both a challenge and a dream come true."
Drama professor Richard Warner, who directed Minnicino's last show, praised Idly Bent Theater's efforts.
"Not every close group of friends who study theater has the talent, background and ambition to create an ensemble and produce theater," he said. Idly Bent "has what it takes to create an exciting theatrical vision and sustain it with original projects."
"Persephone" officially premieres Friday and runs through Sunday, with each performance beginning at 8 p.m., at Random Row Books, 315 W. Main St. A "Pay What You Will" preview will occur on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Random Row Books.
Tickets to Persephone are $5 for one or $8 for a pair and can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 434-760-0877.
— By Lisa Littman